What a pleasure it has been to get back on the river after a few weeks of - albeit pleasurable - messing about after stock fish. The Ribble looked beautiful tonight; fining back down to summer level after midweek rains, the water glowed pale amber and seemed full of life as it chuckled, foam-flecked, over freshly scoured gravel.
Everywhere are signs of spring now; the fresh green leaf of beech trees and wild garlic beneath, wagtails and sandpipers patrolling the riverbank, and on the water's surface the dark olive hatches have begun to recede, to be replaced by medium olives, uprights and the first of the black gnats. Although the best of the evening fishing is still some time off, I was hopeful that a few hours after work might yield some sport - although a chilly breeze would likely deter any would-be surface feeders, I was confident that a nymph or 'duo' approach would secure a fish or two.
And that is pretty much how it worked out. A pair of nymphs accounted for the first few fish before I found a solitary riser which was periodically nobbling the few olive upright duns which drifted overhead. He was feeding in the roily, confused water at the head of a turbulent pool and my initial efforts were scorned as the current dragged my tippet and fly all over the place, despite my best efforts to throw some slack into the cast. Luckily I did manage to hook him eventually after I went to last resort tactics and dropped an untidy 'pile cast' over his nose which gave the bit of extra slack needed to give the fly a couple of seconds of unhindered drift. The fish wasn't a big one - a shade over 1lb - but the vivid beauty of his markings instantly made the evening worthwhile. Brighter red spots on a trout I have never seen before.
Action started to pick up when I changed tack to the 'duo' method - a klinkhamer with a #16 tungsten headed PTN suspended a couple of feet behind. This brought regular interest from trout and a few out of season grayling - although nothing bigger than 12" was forthcoming; pleasing fishing which became even more enjoyable as the wind dropped late on and I was able to quietly fish through the pools, becoming completely absorbed in my surroundings.
I found three seperate species of caddis on the wing tonight: a few grannom; some very small ones dancing beneath the alders late on; and the big brute below which came skittering across the surface like it was about to try and eat me! You can see from the scale that it is about 30mm long - quite a good mouthful for a trout. I'm not sure what the species is, but he went in the tube to be packed off to Stuart Crofts for identification.
And so to South Lakes next weekend where Dad and I will be teaming up with Patrick for our annual assault on Esthwaite Water..........